“Leviathan Falls” Review

The background of the book cover is mostly yellow but taken up with the sides of couple ships one larger one at the bottom corner and sides while another is above and to the right. The title is at the top with the authors name at the bottom.Full Title: “Leviathan Falls: The Expanse No. 9”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, December 2021
528 pages
Completed June 15, 2024

The Laconian Empire has fallen, setting the thirteen hundred solar systems free from the rule of Winston Duarte. But the ancient enemy that killed the gate builders is awake, and the war against our universe has begun again.

In the dead system of Adro, Elvi Okoye leads a desperate scientific mission to understand what the gate builders were and what destroyed them, even if it means compromising herself and the half-alien children who bear the weight of her investigation. Through the wide-flung systems of humanity, Colonel Aliana Tanaka hunts for Duarte’s missing daughter. . . and the shattered emperor himself. And on the Rocinante, James Holden and his crew struggle to build a future for humanity out of the shards and ruins of all that has come before.

As nearly unimaginable forces prepare to annihilate all human life, Holden and a group of unlikely allies discover a last, desperate chance to unite all of humanity, with the promise of a vast galactic civilization free from wars, factions, lies, and secrets if they win.

But the price of victory may be worse than the cost of defeat.

I feel like this book was a good ending for the series (if you choose to continue reading after the end of book six). I did think the first half or so of the book dragged on a bit. There’s a lot of build up and figuring out of what’s happening to read through. Plus a couple side trips as various things are dealt with. The last few chapters are definitely faster as what has to happen becomes clear. I don’t want to completely spoil the plot of what happens but Jim Holden makes a choice that is actually very fitting for him. The epilogue is also a pretty spot on ending for another character.

Overall I think this is a good series – the crew is great and their adventures are fun to read. I stand by what I said in the first couple reviews about not liking some choices that were made but it’s still good series if one likes epic adventures in space.

“Tiamat’s Wrath” Review

The book cover is taken up by various parts of buildings and lights and other shapes that might be parts of spaceships. There is a lot of silver and orange in the cover. The author's name is at the top with the book title below in the middle.  Full Title: “Tiamat’s Wrath: The Expanse No. 8”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, March 2019
544 pages
Completed June 8, 2024

Thirteen hundred gates have opened to solar systems around the galaxy. But as humanity builds its interstellar empire in the alien ruins, the mysteries and threats grow deeper.

In the dead systems where gates lead to stranger things than alien planets, Elvi Okoye begins a desperate search to discover the nature of a genocide that happened before the first human beings existed, and to find weapons to fight a war against forces at the edge of the imaginable. But the price of that knowledge may be higher than she can pay.

At the heart of the empire, Teresa Duarte prepares to take on the burden of her father’s godlike ambition. The sociopathic scientist Paolo Cortázar and the mephistophelian prisoner James Holden are only two of the dangers in a palace thick with intrigue, but Teresa has a mind of her own and secrets even her father the emperor doesn’t guess.

And throughout the wide human empire, the scattered crew of the Rocinante fights a brave rear-guard action against Duarte’s authoritarian regime. Memory of the old order falls away, and a future under Laconia’s eternal rule – and with it, a battle that humanity can only lose – seems more and more certain. Because against the terrors that lie between worlds, courage and ambition will not be enough…

Often times the middle book (or movie series) of a trilogy is more of a bridge to fighting the big bad than a story that resolves anything. Not so with this book. Which is why I enjoy it a lot. Granted it has its slow parts and some things are a little tedious but it’s a good book and I enjoy all the different point of view characters. Without spoiling too much a good chunk of the primary problem is resolved. I love the way the crew of the Rocinante are fighting their own fights as they work their way back together. I like that we see one of the pervious characters returned (Elvi Okoye) and a new character (Teresa) who has to figure out where she belongs in the universe.

“Loka” Review

The cover shows a person and a small machine that looks somewhat like a dog in a valley between cliff sides with large patches of green up the sides. The two figures are in the distance standing on a rock looking upwards at the blue sky visible outside of the valley.  The book title is written from top to bottom one letter at a time and the author's name is at the very top.Full Title: “Loka: The Alloy Era No. 2”
Written by S. B. Divya
Published by 47North, August 2024
367 pages
Completed June 4, 2024

Akshaya is the hybrid daughter of a human mother and an alloy, a genetically engineered posthuman―and she’s the future of life on the planet Meru. But not if the determined Akshaya can help it. Before choosing where her future lies, she wants to circumnavigate the most historic orb in the universe―the birthplace of humanity: Earth.

Akshaya’s parents reluctantly agree to her anthropological challenge―one with no assistance from alloy devices, transport, or wary alloys themselves who manage humanity and the regions of Earth called Loka. It’s just Akshaya; her equally bold best friend, Somya; and a carefully planned itinerary threading continent by continent across a wondrous terrain of things she’s never seen: blue skies, sunrises, snowcapped mountains, and roiling oceans.

As the adventure unfolds, the travelers discover love and new friendships, but they also learn the risks of a planet that’s not entirely welcoming. On this trek―rapturous, dangerous, and life-changing―Akshaya will discover what human existence really means.

This was a great book. It was a very quick read and I enjoyed reading Akshaya and Somya’s adventure around the world. Akshaya is a very typical teenager who wants to be able to make her own choices about everything and not feel forced to conform to what her mother wants for her. Both she and her mother have a lot to learn and do so throughout the course of the book. I really enjoyed the additional aspects of how disability was used. Like her mother Akshaya has sickle cell anemia and must figure out how to work with it on Earth where it’s more disabling than it would be on Meru due to different conditions. The entire story is about self discovery and figuring out where you belong in the universe.

While this book is a sequel to the previous book “Meru” – Akshaya’s parents are two of the main characters from that book – “Loka” works well enough as a standalone novel. I think anyone could read it without having read the first book. Though some plot points might be helpful to know for additional context.

Thank you to NetGalley, 47North and S.B. Divya for access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

“Persepolis Rising” Review

The cover is taken up mostly by the edges of two ships on the left and right flying forwards away from the view. There are a lot of silver panels with some read and blue colorings. The rest of the background is mostly orange with some red highlights. The title of the book is at the center with the authors name at the top. Full Title: “Persepolis Rising: The Expanse No. 7”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, December 2017
622 Pages
Completed June 2, 2024

In the thousand-sun network of humanity’s expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace.

In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it.

New technologies clash with old as the history of human conflict returns to its ancient patterns of war and subjugation. But human nature is not the only enemy, and the forces being unleashed have their own price. A price that will change the shape of humanity — and of the Rocinante — unexpectedly and forever…

It’s 30 years after the previous book and everything is changing once again for the entire solar system. Given the current climate right now with everything going on I feel like I struggled with reading this one more than I did the first time I read it a few years ago. It’s a good look at how quickly everything can fall apart when a stronger power wants to take over everything and sees themselves as better than everyone else. I feel like in some ways the series is better ended with book 6 but in other ways this final trilogy of books will resolve some of the plot elements regarding the aliens who created the rings and what happened to them. It also changes everything for the crew of the Rocinante and their final fate is told in the next books where book 6 ends with them as they are – traveling together.

“Babylon’s Ashes” Review

Most of the cover is taken up by the side of a grey ship showing a lot of random parts. At the bottom corner a purple nebula with stars is visible and at the top there is a ring which the ship is flying into. The title is in the middle of the cover with the authors name at the bottom.Full Title: “Babylon’s Ashes: The Expanse No. 6”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, December 2016
538 pages
Completed May 28, 2024

The Free Navy – a violent group of Belters in black-market military ships – has crippled Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. The colony ships heading for the thousand new worlds on the far side of the alien ring gates are easy prey, and no single navy remains strong enough to protect them.

James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network.

But the new alliances are as flawed as the old, and the struggle for power has only just begun. As the chaos grows, an alien mystery deepens. Pirate fleets, mutiny, and betrayal may be the least of the Rocinante’s problems. And in the uncanny spaces past the ring gates, the choices of a few damaged and desperate people may determine the fate of more than just humanity.

I enjoyed most of this book – especially the ending resolution for the Belters who weren’t involved with the Free Navy. But I feel like some things were lost in having so many point of view characters. It ended up being harder to keep track of what was going on and who was doing what. With some point of view characters I wasn’t entirely sure who they were. That said it probably makes sense for this type of story because of how big the solar system is and all the people involved in the conflict. I did think central conflict is resolved a little too easily but given how baldy it was going to go there wasn’t much of a choice. I wish at this point the characters understood more about the alien technology they’re using but they don’t – and that’s actually going to be a problem later.

There’s a side plot that was going on during the conflict with the Free Navy – a group of Martian ships disappeared through one of the gates. It’s the reason why there’s three more novels in the series. That said one could end here with the ending of this book. There’s a 30 year gap between this book and the next and lot of things have to be rebuilt in the solar system.

“Nemesis Games” Review

The background of the cover is mostly black with what looks like a city on the right side with rockets blasting off with flames. On the left side of the cover is a ship from a higher point of view flying downwards towards the city. The took title is near the bottom with the authors name at the vert bottom.Full Title: “Nemesis Games: The Expanse No. 5”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2015
532 pages
Completed May 23, 2024

A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a lot going on and it’s the first time there are sections from the point of view of the rest of the Rocinante crew. As a result we learn a lot about Alex, Amos and Naomi. In this book the crew has some down time while the ship is being repaired so the three of them end up going off to deal with stuff from their past. It makes for a lot of interesting things to learn. Each of them has a story to tell. James is left behind to deal with the initial problems that crop up. I don’t want to spoil to much of what happens with regards to the central plot that develops but lets just say by the end of this book the crew comes back together in time to deal with a changed solar system. The next book in the series will resolve most of that plot line.

“Cibola Burn” Review

The book cover has a green background with a large ship taking up much of the cover from top to bottom it appears to be hitting the atmosphere of a planet with dust clouds coming from the bottom. There is a smaller round ship or shuttle to the bottom left that has sparks coming from the back end of it. The top half of the book has the author's name with the title below. Full Title: “Cibola Burn: The Expanse No. 4”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2014
592 pages
Completed May 19, 2024

The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Settlers are looking for a new life stream out from humanity’s home planets. Ilus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire.

Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. Innocent scientists are slaughtered as they try to survey a new and alien world. The struggle on Ilus threatens to spread all the way back to Earth.

James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the midst of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail.

And the whispers of a dead man remind him that the great galactic civilization that once stood on this land is gone. And that something killed it.

I really enjoyed this book – more than the previous one. The conflict was a bit annoying but made sense given everything that was going on. Holden and the crew did the best they could with the difficult situation they were in. I also enjoyed reading the sections for the three other point of view characters. A lot more than the previous book even though one was a little frustrating. I also really liked that we got to see more of the technology from the previous inhabitants of the universe. Without spoiling it the planet has a lot more going on than it seems at the start. I really liked the way it ended and how everything is resolved. The situation on the planet also has consequences for how everything will play out regarding the future of Earth, Mars and the Belt – a thousand new worlds of potential means a lot of changes in store.

“Abaddon’s Gate” Review

The book cover is yellow with various ships taking up most of the cover there are at least three of them in various shapes. The bottom half of the cover is taken up by the title an author's name. Full title: “Abaddon’s Gate: The Expanse No. 3”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2013
560 pages
Completed May 14, 2024

For generations, the Sol system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared beyond Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless space beyond.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first two books, mostly because I never really warmed up to two of the point of view characters. These books all have multiple points of view – the first one had two and the second and third have four. With the previous books I enjoyed everyone’s storyline, not this time. One because her part of the plot was the most frustrating and the other just because I didn’t enjoy his personality. The most frustrating part of the book was the plot against Holden – all because someone decided to take revenge on him for stuff that wasn’t even his fault. I did enjoy everything else about the book – everything having to do with the artifact and finding out more about the aliens that had existed in the universe long before humans. I wish there’d been more of that part of it.

“Caliban’s War” Review

The cover has a red background while the bottom corner/half is taken up by what looks like the gray surface of a planet. There's a satellite or ship in the upper right side of the cover. The author's name takes up the top of the cover while the title is on the bottom. Full Title: “Caliban’s War: The Expanse No. 2”
Written by: James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2012
595 Pages
Completed May 8, 2024

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun…

This is good sequel to the previous book. The characters and the world building are developed a bit more and new characters are introduced. The central plot of helping the scientist find his daughter is good and flows well with the overall story-arc that’s getting started. The two new characters – Roberta “Bobbie” Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala are great additions. I like the fact that the series will continue to have these mostly stand alone stories that build on the overall story arc of the series. Each one develops the arc a bit more while having its own central issue to resolve.

It isn’t lost on me that there is a problem with the way the series has reduced the idea of racism down to conflicts between Earth, Mars and the Belt. This results in Earth being seemingly comprised of a single group of people like Mars and the Belt which doesn’t make much sense. In some ways it works for what the series wants to do but it others it’s a noticeable issue. Bringing this up now because the introduction of Chrisjen Avasarala who is part of Earth’s government makes it more obvious.

“Leviathan Wakes” Review

The top half of the cover is taken up by the author's name and the book title. In the background is a view of space with a blue tinge with earth visible at the top edge. There is a large asteroid at the top left corner and the bottom is entirely taken up by the edge of a ship. Full Title: “Leviathan Wakes: The Expanse No. 1”
Written by James S.A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books, June 2011
561 pages
Completed May 4, 2024

Humanity has colonized the solar system–Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond–but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations–and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

I’ve been wanting to re-read this series for a while so I decided May was going to be the month I started reading it again. As this first book in the series this one is a fun read. The characters and the world building are great. I love the way everything is set up for the rest of the series. A lot of things happen in the book that will have an impact much farther down the line. I also really like the way the crew of the Rocinante comes together – Jim Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, and Amos Burton – it’s a team built out of chaos and destruction but they make a great team flaws and all. Detective Miller good too but he’s definitly a tragic character.

Okay I’m just going to say this once – something that frustrates me about the writing is how often “stupid” or “idiot” are used as shorthand for any character flaw instead of actually naming the flaw for what it is – arrogance, greed, carelessness, recklessness, etc. Granted, it’s a thing people do all the time, so it’s not surprising it’s in the book. It’s still frustrating though since it’s a constant thing that happens. There’s also a weird scene where Holden contemplates taking advantage of a drunk Naomi (they’re at a bar together she’s drunk, he is not) and the narration clearly acts as though it’s a natural thing to contemplate… the fact that he doesn’t do it at all doesn’t mitigate anything. At least it’s clear throughout the book Naomi isn’t going to tolerate any BS from him and he listens.